New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) Terming manual scavenging as "despicable", Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar Monday called on society to cleanse its mindset to get rid of such practices.
"The caste system and untouchability in the country has given rise to such practices. Unless the society cleanses its mind of all the ills, no amount of effort can rid us of such practices," she said.
Inaugurating a two-day seminar organised by Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, the speaker said: "Parliament should also rise to the occasion to meet the expectations of the nation and the house should be allowed to function to conduct its business."
Early passage of the bill prohibiting employment of manual scavengers and their rehabilitation is necessary, stressed union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
"I urge parliament to support the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill. If we resolve, we can pass this bill in two to three months.
"Unless these liberated scavengers are given alternative jobs, the purpose of the exercise would be defeated. They have to be given proper employment after imparting them some vocational training," said Ramesh.
According to the bill, the district magistrate has to ensure that no person within his jurisdiction is engaged as a manual scavenger or constructs an insanitary latrine and manual scavengers are rehabilitated.
It makes it mandatory for municipalities, cantonment boards and railway authorities to construct adequate number of sanitary community latrines within three years of the act coming into force.
If anyone employs a manual scavenger or constructs an insanitary latrine, he shall be penalised with imprisonment up to one year or a fine of up to Rs.50,000 or both.
Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak pitched for including sanitation in the study of sociology.
"The inclusion of this subject as one of the disciplines will not only enlarge the scope of sociology but will also be helpful in solving the problems of society in relation to sanitation, social deprivation, water, public health, hygiene, poverty, gender equality, welfare of the children and empowering knowledge for sustainable development," he said.
So far, Sulabh has converted 1.3 million bucket toilets into flush toilets, and also has constructed more than 8,000 public toilets at important places all over the country which are being used by more than 15 million people everyday.